If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, may the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king's question."
I. EVERYTHING HAS ITS SEASON. Why did not Esther at once lay open her heart to the king? Was she confused by his unexpected kindness, or seized with timidity at the moment of peril? Most likely she was prompted by an intuitive feeling that the time was not fit. She might lose everything by precipitancy. It is wise to study occasion or opportunity. Many failures have resulted solely from want of attention to time and place (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
II. PRUDENCE WORKS PATIENTLY. The invitation to the banquet would provide a better opportunity. Yet Esther again deferred her request, though the king repeated his promise to grant her any boon, to "the half of his kingdom." She was acting now not in the dark, or under impulse, but under a new light and in watchful thought. Her regaining of influence over the king gave her confidence and made her patient. Her woman's instinct told her that by prolonging suspense she would increase her power. The king once hers, she could defy Haman. So she worked and waited. The prudence of the righteous may be more than a match for the guile of the wicked. These sometimes seem to resemble each other; but the distinction between is, that while prudence is honourable in method and pure in motive, guile is impure and unscrupulous. God disciplines his people into patience, and then sends them deliverance through it. It is often harder to wait than to work or to suffer. Patience, therefore, is an excelling grace (Psalm 40:1-4; James 1:3, 4).
III. THE BITTER MINGLES WITH THE SWEET IN THE CUP OF THE WICKED. Haman was a proud man when he went forth from the banquet. To have been alone with the king and queen at their private feast, and to be invited to a similar feast on the next day, was almost too much honour for his vain soul to bear. But he had not gone far when his eye fell on the unbending Mordecai. Then indignation took possession of his heart. What a humbling of pride! what a beclouding of joy! So is it always with the happiness of the wicked. It is ever meeting with signs of menace - a word, a look, an attitude, an enemy - which make it fade. A Mordecai sits at the gate that leads from its feastings. Evil joys are attended by a mocking shade which has only to appear to turn them into wormwood.
IV. HOUSEHOLD SYMPATHIES. It was natural that Haman, on reaching home from the palace, should call his friends around him, and tell them of the double honour he had received. Nothing is pleasanter to behold than a united family in which there is a free sharing of confidences and sympathies, all the members rejoicing in the happiness of each. But if the family be godless and wicked, and bound together by common interests of an evil kind, then all the pleasantness of the picture vanishes. Such was the family of Haman. His wife and friends knew the arts by which he had gained the royal favour, and the terrible revenge he was about to execute on the whole Jewish race for the offence of Mordecai. Yet they flattered him as be flattered the king, and stimulated him in his abounding crimes. Saddest of sights that of a family whose bond is wickedness! Learn, further -
1. How character influences. A man who acquires power draws about him his own circle, and infuses his spirit into all the members of it. Children catch the spirit and habits of their parents. Men are known by the companions that attract them.
2. How pride puffs itself up. It was a glowing story which Haman told of his wealth, and grandeur, and promotions, and of the special honours which even Esther was conferring on him. His vanity plumed itself rarely before his admiring hearers. But to us the exhibition is repugnant. It was a self-feeding of all that was worst in the man, and a kindling of hateful fires in the hearts that were listening. The boaster little suspected what the favour of Esther meant. "Pride goeth before destruction."
3. How pride resents affront. The recital of an ill-gotten glory was ended by a confession that all was dimmed by the remembrance of one man. The higher his advancement to honour, the more deeply did the iron of the Jew's contempt enter into Haman's soul. He described to his home circle his passing of Mordecai at the king's gate, and the difficulty with which he had restrained an outflow of his passion. The self-restraint of evil men in presence of supposed insult is exercised not that they may overlook or forget, but that they may inflict a deadlier vengeance.
4. How the result of consultations will be in accordance with the spirit that governs them. The practical question before Haman and his friends came to be, How should Mordecai be dealt with? There was no thought of pity or forgiveness, or even of silent contempt. The insulted favourite could no longer, even in prospect of the coming slaughter, possess his soul in patience. The conclusion arrived at was consistent with the fierce animosity that had communicated itself to every breast. Justice, compassion, wisdom were swallowed up in the common hatred. Notice -
(1) The proposer of the scheme of punishment. We infer that it was Zeresh, the wife of Haman. She, as his most intimate companion, would be most influenced by his spirit, and would enter most sympathetically into his ambitious projects. The tenderest nature may become brutalised by the dominance of evil.
(2) The nature of the adopted proposal. It consisted of three parts: -
(a) That a gallows fifty cubits high should be constructed for the hanging of Mordecai. The higher the gibbet, the more conspicuous, and therefore the more satisfying the vengeance of the favourite.
(b) That Haman was to get the king's sanction for the hanging of the Jew on the morrow. Having secured a decree for the destruction of all the Jews, it would be an easy matter to obtain the premature sacrifice of this one Jew.
V. GOD SENDS BLINDNESS TO THOSE WHOM HE MEANS TO DESTROY. Haman had no perception of any influences that were working against him. So vainly secure was his sense of power with the king, that he took Esther's banquets as intended to confer special honour on himself. God had entered the lists against him. It was God who had given to Mordecai the heroism of faith. It was God who had strengthened the timid Esther, and given her "a mouthpiece and wisdom." And it was God who bad allowed Haman to erect a gallows for himself. How blind we become when we fight against God! - D.
Let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do to-morrow as the king hath said.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
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